I often get the feeling that people haven’t really read their Voltaire.
So often I will put in a crude joke ridiculing religion, mocking it, and of course deriding what is odious and noxious about faith based belief. Sometimes ridiculing the corrupt ideologies of religion, and of the religious, is the best way to effectively neutralize the harmful practices. If not neutralize them, then at least bring undesirable attention to it all.
But it doesn’t always come without a cost. Sometimes we have to pay a price for our right to criticize others. Voltaire found this out the hard way.
Religious theocracy is never fair, never tollerant, and never lenient. That’s why it is called a theocracy. Religious theocracy wants to force everyone to believe the same things and follow the same regulations, those who openly defy or refuse their religious world view will be threatened, harassed, and run out of town–if not something worse.
Even today, conservative Christian groups spread the lie that America was founded as a Christian nation. They ignore what the nation’s founding fathers wrote, they ignore the U.S. Constitution, and they trample over everyone’s constitutional rights when they say racist and hurtful things against gays, Jews, and people of other faiths–claiming they aren’t true Americans if they don’t believe that Jesus is God. Like the religious ignoramus Dennis Terry, with a smug nicety written over his pompous totalitarian face, he’ll tell you to get the hell out of HIS Christian America. In other words, Jesus-Land is not for the free. It’s only for slaves to the Jesus-ideology. And not even really about what Jesus taught, but what Dennis Terry says is.
Honestly, what do you say to someone like that? Excuse me, but you’re being kind of rude, don’t you think? Would that even work? I somehow doubt it. He’d simply say you’re being rude for challenging his inviolable faith. You’re being rebellious for denying the truth. You’re being a bad influence for telling other people to think for themselves. No, he doesn’t want a dialog with you. He wants you to bend over and take it up the ass seven different ways till Sunday.
But he’s the “nice” sort of Theocratic bully. There are much meaner, scarier, theocracies out there as well.
Drawing Muhammad with a bomb for a hat is one way to poke fun at the extremism which the Islamic faith sponsors in jihadism. The problem is, jihadists won’t like it, and in all probability, will continue burning down embassies, rioting, and killing nuns in retaliation to such humor.
Whether the humor is tasteful or not is besides the point. The point is, if we allow religious fanatics to dictate what we can and cannot say based on nothing more than their transitory temperament or mood, then we are merely handing over all our liberties to theocratic bullies who will kill us for simply expressing an idea. When they dictate what can be said they dictate the realm of ideas–it’s a veritable Orwellian nightmare. That is not the sort of world I want to live in.
I fully support the freedom of speech and free expression, but most of all, free inquiry. This includes the right to mock and ridicule religion. Criticism of religion, as Thomas Jefferson once pointed out, is healthy for society and healthy for faith. Without due criticism, the dominant religion of any given culture would degrade into a state organization where the one monopolizes the rest. Then freedom is lost. Freedom of religion is lost. Therefore, in order for us to be truly free, in order for the religious to enjoy practicing the faith of their choice, criticism must be allowed.
Certain religious theocratic demagogues and patriarchs do not like the idea of poking fun at religion. Salman Rushdie did it and has had to live with a fatwa on his head ever since. But when I spoke with Rushdie in person and asked him what the best course of action would be when someone threatens to silence you–he merely said, “Keep on talking. Writing. Sharing. Whatever you do, do not quit speaking your mind.”
Sound advice, I think you’ll agree. If censorship is the weapon of choice wielded by theocratic tyrants and power mongers, then freedom of speech is the weapon of those who cherish their basic human rights and will wield the pen, or the brush, and prove–like Thomas Paine did when he wrote The Rights of Man–that the power of ideas is a much more effective weapon than any gun, bomb, or sword.
I suppose religious people will continue to act bad and behave badly when they feel offended. They simply have no means to cope–given the fact that they have imprisoned or gotten rid of their harshest critics in almost every age. They simply aren’t accustomed to having to be treated as something less than sacrosanct.
Even in the 21st century there are certain so-called modern countries, such as Ireland, which sponsor anti-blasphemy laws. How embarrassing is that? Running through the street naked with a snapping turtle clamped around your wanker or tits would be slightly less embarrassing than that! Yet people seem to think such laws somehow guarantee they’ll never be made fun of. I guess the joke is on them. Even if we passed a law which stated we couldn’t make fun of morons running around naked with reptiles clamped onto their privates, you can bet your bottom dollar that that idiot will be made fun of.
The fact is, however, no country which has an anti-blasphemy law can be all that civilized. You cannot profess to be for civil rights, the very foundation of any civilization, and then oppress the peoples rights to think differently let alone to disagree. That is the opposite of being civilized. Its why things like Communism fail and Democracy prevails. To control the people, to repress, suppress, and oppress the citizens of society does not a civilization make. Such injustice hearkens back to the tribal mentality of Theocrats who will burn you at the stake for defying their institutions of backwardness.
I am sure religious zealots and radicals will continue to kill others for the foreseeable future. In fact, knowing how deeply religion can corrupt the mind, I practically guarantee it. Every time they attack the innocent loud mouthed critic, however, they inflict more damage on their own faith. Gradually they make their faith so intolerant, so vitriolic, and so dangerously volatile, that eventually it simply will not be tolerated by rational and reasonable minded people. Religious or not. Eventually laws will need to be erected to protect the public’s interests and safeguard the lives of innocent people. Journalists and cartoonists face life and death threats today, but eventually governments will say enough is enough, you cannot kill people simply because you disagree with them or don’t like the fact that they made fun of or criticized your beliefs.
You have to learn to grow up and deal with it like a civil, mature, adult. No more crying crocodile tears because someone made a cartoon of your God being raped by the tooth “fairy.”
We must all learn to agree to disagree.
Learn to deal with disappointment.
Learn to grow a goddamn sense of humor.
And, perhaps most importantly, we must never quit speaking our minds.